The Basis and Relevance of Emotional Dignity
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy: A European Journal 2003; 6(2): 123-131
The paper is a preliminary examination of the origin and role of psychological perception or "feeling" of dignity in human beings. Following Ayala's naturalistic account of morality, a sense of emotional dignity is seen as an outcome of processes of natural selection, cultural evolution, and above all a need for social inclusion. It is suggested that the existence of emotional dignity as part of a human species-related continuum provides an explanation of why we treat those in a persistent vegetative state, the severely and hopelessly mentally impaired, the senile demented, cadavers and archaeological remains with dignity and respect. For older Europeans, dissonance between physical and mental abilities, unfamiliarity with social and cultural changes and relative proximity to death may influence their emotional dignity and hence vulnerability.
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